By C. Aileen Blaine
In-person Hispanic Heritage Month events return to Youngstown State University this year, bringing back old favorites, such as the celebration in Kilcawley Center, and introducing new festivities, such as a Día de los Muertos celebration.
After the pandemic rained on the ability to host in-person events last year, the YSU Hispanic Heritage Planning Committee, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and other community organizations are eager to bring an extended calendar of events to the Mahoning Valley.
Hispanic Heritage Month spans Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, and is a time of colorful, flavorful and joyous celebrations of what it means to be Latino and to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. Under the theme “¡Adelante! Celebrating the Latin@s Who are Moving the Valley Forward,” local events span Sept. 16 to Nov. 6 and take place at various locations within the Youngstown area.
“I am actually looking forward to all of the events because they range from learning opportunities to collaborations, connecting with people from campus and the community, foods, entertainment and even dancing!” Ana Torres, Hispanic Heritage Planning Committee member, said.
One marked event includes a presentation by multicultural motivational speaker Bobby González at 5 p.m. Oct. 12 in the Ohio Room in Kilcawley Center. A poet and storyteller, González will speak to the campus community about taking pride in one’s heritage and appreciating diversity.
Alicia Prieto, mathematics professor and member of the Hispanic Heritage Planning Committee, believes González’ presentation is a valuable asset to the academic aspect of Latino heritage.
“It’s really nice that we’re having a lot more events that are what a university should be putting out,” Prieto said.
Another key event will be a Día de los Muertos celebration at 6-10 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Organización Cívica y Cultural Hispana América hall on Shirley Road in Youngstown. The festivities will include singing, dancing and “pan de muertos.” Attendees can place photos, food or objects at an altar in honor and celebration of the lives of family and friends who have died.
But beyond spicy tango performances and tasty taco bars, Prieto said it’s important for the university to offer more than just cultural displays.
“It’s really important for students to educate themselves so they don’t cluster us all,” Prieto said. “There’s so many countries and so many cultures that have similarities, but also are very different from each other.”
While non-Hispanic community members may be shy or reluctant to attend, all events are free and open to the public, regardless of heritage.
“Sometimes, people feel weird and they just want to come and see — which, I understand their curiosity — but I want them to take a step further and come and be a part of it,” Prieto said.
Torres also encourages students, faculty and staff to attend at least one event in order to connect, learn and better understand the history and contributions of the local Latino community.
“We are here at YSU to learn and be eventually of service to others in our respective professions,” Torres said. “The best way to do so is to gain knowledge and understanding of those who might look different from us.”
Hispanic Heritage Month events include:
- “Mayan Archaeoastronomy: Observers of the Universe”: 8 p.m. Sept. 24-25, Ward Beecher Planetarium
- “Pablo Picasso: A Primitive Soul, Movie and Discussion”: 12 p.m. Sept. 28, Butler Institute of American Art
- “El Último Traje: Movie and Discussion”: 6 p.m. Oct. 11, Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor
- “Why Latinos are Not ‘Spanish’: The Cultural and Racial Diversity of Hispanics”: 5 p.m. Oct. 12, Ohio Room Kilcawley Center
- “Hispanic Heritage Celebration”: 12-3 p.m. Oct. 16, Chestnut Room Kilcawley Center
- “Día de los Muertos Celebration”: 6-10 p.m. Nov. 6, OCCHA Banquet Hall